A guest post by my wife Bethan:
Mother’s Day is one of those funny things that seems to have been through some sort of cultural metamorphosis so that it is now means something it was never originally intended to – a celebration of mothers. Usually, such misuse of significant days irks me, but as a mummy, I’m willing to run with this one!
When our first baby boy was born, I struggled to come to terms with my new role as a stay-at-home mum. I had only 9 months previously finished my Oxford degree, and had only been married just over a year. My whole life I had heard ‘get an education, a degree, experience for your CV and the world can be your oyster – all opportunities are equal now for men and women’. And then I had a baby. And it wasn’t. It felt like everyone else was carrying on with their lives, but mine was now dictated by this very small person who slept (or didn’t) when he felt like it, ate when he felt like it and was sick everywhere when he felt like it. For a task-focused person who loved to achieve, it was really difficult when the only task I set myself in the day was to get dressed and I often failed in even that! I became bitter against my husband and my friends who still went to work, and angry at the system that had told me that this didn’t have to be my life – because I didn’t want it to be, but believed (and still do) that motherhood is a vocation and a ministry that God called me into when he blessed me with children (not that it really felt like a blessing at the time).
So, when we reached my first Mother’s Day (nearly a year after our first child was born) I was determined that it should be used as a day to celebrate what I did. To acknowledge all the things I had sacrificed and to thank me for all the dreams and ambitions (and full night’s sleep) that I had given up. Thankfully, by the grace of God, my heart has been (and still is being!) changed, and as we approach my fourth Mother’s Day I love it for quite a different reason.
Rachel Jankovic writes in her marvellous book ‘Fit to Burst’:
“…there is a difference between giving something up and having it taken from you. If you still count the things you lost with resentment, then you did not give them. You need to let go of those things that you no longer have. Lay them down. If you find yourself in bed at night tallying what has been lost to you, you need to let go of that list. Lay them down. Give them freely. Don’t count them as stolen.”
The Holy Spirit used those words to hit like a double-decker bus. Never mind tallying in bed at night – every time my friends invited me out and I couldn’t go, every time our house felt too small, every time someone got a new job, every time anything happened that could possibly cause me to count my loss, I resented both my husband and my baby. I hadn’t made any sacrifices at all. I was having my old life ripped from my hands, whilst I held on kicking and screaming and all the while making sure everyone knew what an overwhelming sacrifice being a stay-at-home mum was.
It hasn’t been an overnight transformation – but, thank God, the Holy Spirit has been working to convict and transform me. Yes, I’m a sinner, and I sometimes still revert to my old way of thinking when our house seems too small, or when friends start getting mortgages, or when we can’t afford the car that would be perfect for our growing family. But, at least it’s no longer the norm. When people pass comment about the ‘luxury’ of being a stay-at-home mum, or how it’s a ‘lifestyle choice’ I no longer want to strangle them (at least usually – on some of the more difficult days I still might!).
And so this, finally, brings me to my actual point – why I love Mother’s Day. Not only does it give me a marker, a time, to reflect on the work God has done in my heart and to thank Him for that, but what an amazing opportunity to dwell on the ultimate sacrifice – that of Christ. These well-known verses from Philippians 2 sum up, for me, what we should be remembering and celebrating on Mother’s Day:
“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2: 3-8, ESVUK)
Fellow mamas, what an awesome calling we have. The sacrifice that Christ made, for us, we are called to emulate for our children. Of course we were never equal to God and we can’t save them, but I suspect that, in society’s eyes, we have taken on one of the lowliest roles there is and, rather than humbling ourselves, have humiliated ourselves. But, we are to consider our children more significant than ourselves – and they certainly provide ample opportunity for us to do this any hour of the day or night! We are not to look only to our own interests, but also to the interests of our children. You know that phrase ‘If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy’ – these verses from Scripture show this to be totally ridiculous. I certainly don’t get the impression from reading the Bible that Jesus delighted in his mission to the cross. But despite the pain and suffering, He didn’t say in the Garden of Gethsemane, ‘Actually, Lord, I think that I need to be happy for your children to be happy, and the cross doesn’t make me happy so I think I’ll try something different.’ The consequences of that don’t bear thinking about.
Jesus went to the cross for us. He gave us the ultimate example in sacrifice. Because of His pain and suffering, we can live new lives in Christ Jesus. Just maybe, if we can, as mums, follow this example we can bring some good to the lives of our children. We can point them to the ultimate sacrifice through our sacrifice. We can show them a shadow of the truest love in that we show them true love by laying down our lives for them. What a privilege. But it is only made possible because of Christ. We can only know this because of what He did. So yes, I love a handmade card and a cup of tea in bed, but let’s not forget to use Mother’s Day as an opportunity to remember the sacrifice Christ made for us, and to ask for His help in pointing our children to that through the way we love them and lay down our lives for them.